(Washington, D.C.) May 1, 2011 — Volunteering your time and talents for a RSP can be a rewarding experience that benefits the chaplain, the detainees, and you. In fact, you may feel that you receive more than you give. Most likely, you will serve at the DHS detention facility closest to your home. To locate a facility, you should visit the Detention Watch Network’s interactive map of detention facilities or ICE’s list of detention facilities. The Detention Watch Network’s map lists many more facilities than ICE.
Wherever you decide to volunteer, the chaplain in charge of the RSP will likely welcome volunteer assistance. You should know that Jesuit Refugee Service/USA supports RSPs at the following facilities: Buffalo FDF, El Paso SPC, and Florence SPC. Our partner organization, Church World Service (CWS) works at El Centro SPC, Krome SPC, and Port Isabel SPC.
Location of Detention Facilities with JRS/USA or Church World Service RSPs
View Immigration Detention Facilities with Religious Services Programs in a larger map
While all other detention facilities (federal, county, or private) do not have an affiliation with JRS/USA or CWS, each should have a chaplain or coordinator responsible for the provision of religious services to detainees.
Contacting a Detention Facility
Once you have chosen a location, you should contact the detention facility to inquire about the possibility of volunteering.
If you want to volunteer with a RSP supported by JRS/USA or CWS, visit one of the following ICE links: Buffalo FDF, El Centro SPC, El Paso SPC, Florence SPC, Krome SPC, or Port Isabel SPC. The PDFs at these links have facility-specific information that includes visiting hours, restrictions, security procedures, and the phone number for the Chaplain’s Office. You want to call the Chaplain’s Office to ask about volunteering.
If you are contacting a facility not supported by Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, you can find the facility’s main phone number through the Detention Watch Network. It is best to speak with the volunteer coordinator and/or the chaplain.
Talking with the Chaplain
No matter which detention facility you contact, your conversation has three goals: determine requirements for visiting the facility, find out any requirements for becoming a volunteer, and discuss the areas where the chaplain needs volunteer assistance. This last part is crucial to worthwhile service because you want to make sure that your skills and interests match the chaplain’s needs.
Here are some questions to keep in mind for the discussion:
- Does the detention center require any information from visitors in advance?
- Do visitors need to provide information about specific detainees?
- What security procedures should I expect?
- What objects cannot be brought into the facility?
- What are the visiting hours of the facility?
- What is the dress code for visitors?
- Are there any specific requirements that the chaplain has for volunteers?
- What are the potential roles for volunteers?
- What is the expected time commitment of a volunteer?
- Is volunteer interaction with detainees contact or non-contact?
Organizing a Group
After becoming familiar with the all the requirements for service and visiting the facility to assist the chaplain, some volunteers may discover that organizing a group through their church or other community organization may be beneficial to a chaplain’s RSP. How to Organize a Group outlines steps for creating a volunteer group.
Sample Training Materials
Below are some sample training materials for volunteers. Getting Acquainted with the Program answers basic questions about volunteering with a RSP. The Role of the Volunteer explains general things that volunteers can and cannot do for the RSP. Issues That Should be Referred to Program Leaders discusses specific issues that volunteers may encounter and direct to RSP staff for proper treatment. Confidentiality describes the importance of maintaining detainee confidentiality. Common Questions from Individuals in Detention reviews questions volunteers often hear from detainees and offers possible answers to the questions. More Ways to Get Involved lists other ideas for assisting immigrants and educating friends and family.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some common questions that volunteers may have about their service. The answers are the appropriate ICE/ERO Detention Standards. In some cases, the regulations will provide clear answers, while others will only give a sense of what to expect at the facility. When the regulations are general, you will need to obtain supplementary information and guidance from the chaplain or volunteer coordinator at a specific detention facility. ICE’s list of detention facilities contains guidelines for the facilities listed.
What are the general rules?
5.7 Expected Practices - Overview
When can I visit?
5.7 Expected Practices – Visits by Family & Friends – Hours & Time Limits (1)
What information do I need to give to the facility?
5.7 Expected Practices – Visitor Log
Can I give gifts to detainees?
5.7 Expected Practices – Incoming Property & Funds for Detainees
What are the consequences for breaking the rules?
5.7 Expected Practices – Sanctions for Violation of Visitation or Contraband Rules
What should I wear?
5.7 Expected Practices – Dress Code for Visitors
What kind of security can I expect?
5.7 Expected Practices – Visits by Family & Friends – Visitor Identification and Search Procedures (3)
Is physical contact with the detainees allowed?